Industrial Tourism in São João da Madeira

Turismo Industrial
Place: São João da Madeira

São João da Madeira provides the opportunity for a different kind of itinerary to see how Portugal’s traditional industries are still preserved.

The points of interest on this visit are the region’s old industries that still exist and are now part of local history. There are predefined industrial heritage routes but you can create your own route if you prefer.

Don’t miss the Hat Museum, unique in the Iberian Peninsula, which pays tribute to all those who made hats one of the most important manufacturing activities in the region. The journey back to the days when it was fashionable to wear a hat takes you to Fepsa. This company was dedicated to the manufacture of felt for hats, and had a strong connection to the world's best brands, the theatre and the cinema. Many hats used in Hollywood films came from here.

The preparation of the raw material, from rabbit, hare and beaver skins, was done in the Cortadoria Nacional de Pelo, where you can watch the entire process. In turn, Heliotextil demonstrates the art of manufacturing textile accessories, such as labels, ribbons and other items that are part of everyday wear. It is a major supplier of the teams’ kits for the big football clubs. Make sure you also stop by Flexitex, where they produce knitted and jacquard fabric coverings for bedding; you can watch everything, from the preparation of the threads to the final product. Belts is at Belcinto, which has been supplying the entire country since the 1960s and now even manufactures wallets, bags and purses, among other items.

Also unique is Viarco, a historic pencil factory that is worth knowing; operating since 1907, this company still retains its handcrafted process and unveils all the secrets linked to the production of graphite and coloured pencils. Bulhosas, in operation since 1935, is dedicated to producing all kinds of self-adhesive labels and plastic parts, such as coat hangers, staples, cup holders and much more. At Molaflex, we find the pioneer in the manufacture of spring mattresses in Portugal, and the brand has been a reference in markets such as Spain, England and Brazil since the 1950s; and Monte Campo, since the late 1970s, has become a market leader in sports and outdoor leisure products, mainly backpacks.

São João da Madeira has always occupied a prominent place in the Portuguese business map, exporting all over the world, but especially in the area of footwear: you can get to know the handmade tools and machines of the past at the Centro de Formação Profissional da Indústria do Calçado (Footwear Industry Training Centre), or see how a testing laboratory works, at the Centro Tecnológico do Calçado de Portugal (Footwear Technology Centre of Portugal).

To make the best of the visit to São João da Madeira, it is always good to start at the Welcome Center at Torre Oliva; the old Oliva sewing machines factory is currently one of the most emblematic historical buildings of the city and houses a thematic circuit about the metallurgy industry. There you can book a visit to the museums, to the Centro de Arte Oliva (Oliva Art Centre) itself, a space dedicated to contemporary art and raw art, and have the support of a tour guide to set up a personalised circuit.

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